Terpenes have exploded in popularity over the past few years. These are naturally occurring organic compounds that contribute to plants’ scent. You can find them in fruits, nuts and seeds, roots, flowers, and other areas of vegetation which contribute to their color, flavor, and scent.
Terpenes’ potential health benefits may be as varied as the plants they are from. Some of its health benefits include supporting healthy inflammation responses, maintaining brain function, fighting respiratory infections, and aiding cancer prevention.
However, people are becoming aware of this chemical compound’s many benefits. Scientists have been trying to unlock their secrets for quite some time now and continuously find new uses for them.
How to Get Terpenes
These chemical compounds are usually extracted from plant material using carbon dioxide (CO²) or ethanol—these methods do not introduce solvents or chemicals into the process.
The process of extraction involves separating plant components in a variety of ways. After being extracted from the plant, these compounds can be segregated from any impurities or solvents and then combined with a carrier oil to make them easier to administer.
You can find the same terpene profiles you see in your favorite food-grade products for use in cooking and baking. A great thing about terpenes is that they’re only responsible for scents and flavors and have different medical benefits depending on their composition.
Infusing Terpenes in Oils, Food, and Skincare
Terpenes are often infused into oils, food products, and skincare products. For example, the terpenes found in flowers are diluted in other oils, such as coconut oil or olive oil, so that you can use them safely.
The food industry uses terpenes for various reasons, such as to help people lose weight, fight depression, and improve memory.
Foods and other products with terpenes infused into them should include information on how much terpene it contains. For example, a typical serving might add 10 mg of terpene products. Some people add just a tiny amount of terpene-infused oil to their tea or coffee for the flavor alone.
Terpenes, though generally safe, should be taken with precaution. You will want to ensure that you do not apply too much to your skin or ingest too many at once. If you are worried about misusing this compound, it is best to consult with a medical professional before using them.
Some examples of terpene compounds found in oils, food, and skincare include
- Linalool: 80% of cleaning and scented hygiene products use this as a scent.
- Myrcene: This is a popular compound in the manufacture of food and beverages.
- Alpha-humulene: This has anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for use in topical balms and salves for pain and inflammation.
- Beta-caryophyllene: Found in herbs like rosemary and black pepper; it also has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that help treat several ailments, like high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and seizures.
How to Use Terpenes
Using terpenes safely is the first thing that anyone should know. The use of terpenes has been well-documented in the medical field. Their use has been safe and effective for centuries, but that doesn’t mean they’re without risks. The following are some tips on using terpenes safely so you can feel confident when using them.
People have consumed terpenes through inhalation via smoking or vaping. Terpenes are diluted in this consumption method, with many of the fragile terpenes getting lost through the high heat of direct fire application.
Vaporizing allows specific temperature control and can reduce the amount of terpenes lost to heat through lower temperature & closed system heating, giving the consumer a more “terp-centric” experience and more access to potential benefits from the terpenes inhaled.
Portland State University found that synthetic terpenes turned harmful when heated to similar temperatures as if you dabbed them at high heat. However, while the inhalation of concentrated terpenes might not have drawbacks, it seems that occasionally inhaling natural concentrations of terpenes might be beneficial for our health and wellness.
Linalool is most well-known as the main compound of Lavender essential oil, highly regarded for its calming, anti-anxiety, and deep relaxation properties.
Oral consumption is the most mysterious of terpene consumption methods at this time. More research is needed to fully understand the health benefits and safety concerns of orally consuming terpenes. While many natural essential oils & their terpenes are recognized as safe for consumption by the FDA, several others can be dangerous and even deadly at the wrong concentrations.
Never consume or swallow concentrated terpenes or essential oils without proper dilution. If you’re unsure about the safety of a compound, do not consume it without consulting a medical professional or licensed herbalist. However, note that oral terpene consumption is not all bad; most terpenes are orally ingested in their original form via fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Lemon essence has been used to balance upset stomachs, primarily due to Limonene. Heartburn and digestive discomfort are common problems with edible consumption, so seeking out food items or edibles with high Limonene content might help curb the adverse side effects of edible consumption.
Using terpenes in lotions, cleansing oils, and soaps are common across the globe. Humans understand the benefits of rubbing certain natural plant extracts and compounds onto the skin for moisturization, relief, and healing. For example, studies show that limonene provides notable anti-cancer benefits when used as a topical massage oil in patients with breast cancer.
One common terpene you might not be familiar with but have continuously been using is eucalyptol, which can be found in your favorite congestion rubs like Vicks Vapor-Rub. This terpene offers coughing and mucus reduction, allowing for easier breathing as it helps open the airways.
Everything in Moderation
Terpenes play a vital role in the flavor and aroma of different plants. It also shows great promise and versatility in use in the field of medicine, culinary arts, and recreation. However, more research is still needed to solidify the findings, but the initial reports and studies make us hopeful of the advancements terpenes can bring.
Terpenes are safe to use as long as you are not mixing them with any other recreational drugs and you don’t exceed the average amount that can be ingested, inhaled, or used. If you’re using it for therapeutic purposes, make sure you get a professional opinion about the efficacy of a specific terpene before taking it.